Authors who’ve written a series of books or who’ve created a publishing house (also known as an imprint) to publish their books sometimes purchase trademark protection in an effort to protect themselves. This almost never is necessary, though.
A trademark is a symbol, word or phrase that represents a company, product or service. It only exists if it has been legally registered or established by use. For example, if your company’s name were “Snowsports Publishing,” which published a series called “Snowsports 101”, both of those names can be trademarked. It differs from a copyright, which is the contents of the book. So, the text of any book in the “Snowsports 101” series, such as the nonfiction volume “How to Ski,” would by copyrighted. You can’t trademark or copyright a book title, however.
Trademarks need not be registered in the United States. In fact, as soon you publish books using the series title or that imprint name, you as the owner of the series or imprint then own a common law trademark.
The more successful your books and imprint are, the more likely you will want to actually register the imprint and series name. Doing so creates a legal presumption of ownership nationwide, so should you wish to shut someone down for using your series name, your path in the courts will be easier.
For a small writer just starting out, a common law trademark should be sufficient protection. Someone is much more likely to pirate your books than they are to print their own books that use your imprint and series names to take advantage of your fame. And even if some crook did the latter, unless you’re extremely well known, the time and cost of litigation will far outweigh any damages you might collect. So, if you’re Coca-Cola, trademark protection makes sense. If you’re Snowsports Publishing that sells a couple of books a day, it’s simply not cost-effective.
Should you decide to register your trademark, in the United States you will need to apply to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The Community Trade Mark System is used in the European Union.
You also can apply for a trademark before even publishing your books. An Intent to Use (ITU) application would be filed in the United Sates with the USPTO.
My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.